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Linda Cardellini: Delivering My Daughter Was Difficult

05/01/2013 at 09:00 AM ET

Linda Cardellini C-Section Delivery
Stefanie Keenan/Getty

It’s been a few fun weeks for actress Linda Cardellini, who recently made her surprise debut on the hit series Mad Men.

Her buzzy performance — she plays Jon Hamm‘s neighbor and mistress, Sylvia — is receiving praise and becoming a lively water cooler topic.

With her professional career at a high, life was much different a year ago when the actress and boyfriend Steven Rodriguez were expecting their first child.

“It was a very traumatic period,” Cardellini, 37, tells PEOPLE. “I had a really scary pregnancy and a very difficult delivery. My daughter and I are lucky to be alive.”

Cardellini — best known for her roles on TV’s ER and Freaks and Geeks — was hospitalized with pneumonia and had several complications when she was nine months along.

When it came time to to deliver daughter Lilah-Rose in February 2012, “her heart rate dropped and she had the umbilical cord around her neck,” explains Cardellini. “We had to do an emergency c-section. It was very intense and scary.”

“I’m so grateful that my daughter is alive and so thankful that we’ve all come out of it,” she says. “We often forget how dangerous childbirth is.”

After the delivery, Cardellini ended up with a thyroid issue that became a major medical problem.

“I had to go on medication and because of that my weight fluctuated up and down in a really erratic way. It was hard to get a handle on it,” she says.

Today, the Scooby-Doo actress is healthy and enjoying life with her toddler, now 14 months old.

“My daughter is very social and opinionated and likes to push her limits,” says the doting mom. “Before she was even [a year old], she pointed to what clothes she wanted to wear. She’s very persistent and she knows exactly what she wants even though she doesn’t have the words to say it.”

Cardellini adds, “She points and grunts and shakes her head and she does a few sign language notions.”

So where does the little girl get these character traits? “I think she has a lot of her dad. She likes to do some mischievous things like him,” says Cardellini with a laugh. “She also has that strong, independent vibe from me.”

As for becoming a first time mother, she says, “I never realized what an enormous amount of love I could feel for someone. Suddenly now that I have this beautiful, innocent creature to protect, I’ve become more aggressive and become much more of a mama bear that I would have never imagined!”

– Paul Chi

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Showing 19 comments

annachestnut on

she is a good actress.

lauralee on

I myself had the exact same complications, with my 3rd and last child. She will be fine my son is a thriving 15 yr old,<3

Michelle on

My twins were delivered early and when I met with the Neonatologist, he commented that for most of us, the closest we will ever come to death without actually dying is the moment when we are born. It is the most dangerous thing that babies go though. It was his way of reassuring me that if we delivered at 32 weeks, they would be fine. Thankfully we held on to 36, but his words have stuck with me. Very profound.

Alissa on

Glad to hear all went well and I’m happy she shared her experience. I think every birth experience is wonderful and miraculous, from the frightening and complicated to the sublime and breezy. Everyone’s experience is relevant and I’m thankful when mom’s share, but not compete. Linda is such a talented actress, I wish we saw her in more movies, and I’m glad she is on Mad Men.

ok on

I’m glad she and her daughter I do well!

It always makes me sad when women have traumatic experiences during pregnancy and birth.

Katie on

childbirth is not dangerous…there can be complication in the 20%, but for the most part, it is smooth…its just all of the interventions and medications that Dr. give us that cause those “complications” most of the time…

Steph on

What, do all of these celebrity women magically transport back in time to 1820 when it comes time to deliver their children? Notice how they all nearly die, or the baby nearly dies, in these stories? Tori Spelling, Gwyneth Paltrow (claiming to have nearly died after a miscarriage)…

Nearly one-third of all babies are born with the umbilical cord wrapped around their neck. It’s rarely a problem. Unless of course you are a celebrity, then of course it’s dire.

Deb on

I loved her work on ER. I’m so pleased that she and her daughter are well and happy.

Rachael on

Steph nailed it. Besides the pneumonia, her “complications” are fairly commonplace and MANY women go through it. And they don’t go around proclaiming how they almost died.

drifter on

My sister had the same experience with her first child and despite it being common, my niece AND sister almost died! Niece was without oxygen for minutes! And my sister bled out badly.

Just because is common doesn’t mean she’s exaggerating!

Sandra on

For those poo pooing her experience, How Dare You? You were not there, you didn’t experience what she experienced, so why do you feel the need to judge her experience. All these Wal-Mart PhD’s on here are just ridiculous!

Julie @ Willow Bird Baking on

About the last thing women need to hear about childbirth, in my opinion, is how “dangerous” it is. It’s actually a lot LESS dangerous than they are constantly told from movies, television shows, and honestly, even from doctors, who are sometimes more interested in getting home for dinner than in letting labor progress as it’s supposed to. I wouldn’t dare tell a woman there are not risks or she shouldn’t be thoughtful about what to do in case of an emergency; however, labor/delivery itself is not automatically the emergency it’s often portrayed as.

Lauryn on

She was adorable as Velma in Scooby Doo, but I can’t get over the rumor that “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” was about her…

best wishes to the family!

Sophie on

you all need to knock it off. things happen. this stuff happens every day whether it be a celebrity or not. the only thing that matters is her and lilah rose got through it and are healthy. thank god! :)

shidley on

Totally agree, Steph. It’s almost as if some Moms want to make their pregnancies and deliveries into one of martyrdom. It’s one thing to give birth in the bush, and quite another where medical assistance is available.

LizzyM on

She’s definitel being dramatic with the comment about she and her daughter almost dying. How did she almost die? Umibical cords get wrapped around babies’ necks all the time (as did with my son).

I literally almost died when I delivered my daughter under emergency cirmcumstances at 29 weeks. I had a seizure in the middle of the night and couldn’t breath due to fatally high blood pressure, so I take real issue with every celeb “almost dying” during childbirth (although Tori Spelling’s situation seems to fit the description).

gues on

LizzyM – yes yours is soooooooo much more dramatic then anyone else’s. Christ most you people suck and apparently can’t comprehend what you read. It states she was hospitalized with pneumonia at 9 months along, but i’m sure what she went through is a breeze. Everyone’s own story is the most harrowing. So judgy I feel sorry for your kids.

C on

To those saying childbirth isn’t dangerous and that she is being dramatic, tell that to my Mom who bled out and needed several pints of blood after she nearly died birthing my little brother. Childbirth can be dangerous. Cords being wrapped around babies neck is not a little issue. This could have cut off the oxygen supply. As for the pneumonia, I had an acquaintance report this week that a friend of hers died in childbirth after contracting pneumonia. Lots of people on here are talking like they are doctors. Guess what, there are risks with pregnancy, but the rewards far outweigh the risk.

Brandy on

I know people are melodramatic about their “complications”, but it’s not just celebs. It’s natural to be a little extra paranoid when having a baby. All animals are. It was probably the Doctor that convinced her she and her baby nearly died. I’ve never seen a baby die from a nuchal cord, but I’ve seen about 2 (out of hundreds) have permanent complications. It can be serious. Can be…

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